Quarter2Four – Q2IV the preferred shorthand – is a “new” vocal quartet comprising Erika Banks, Elizabeth McKendry, Jody Mullen and Rick Knight. If this group’s members were cast for network TV, they could not reflect a more appropriate demographic diversity – in race, gender, age and type; yet they blended in tone and style with an agreeable ease. During a June 14 performance at the Metropolitan Room, they all brandished beaming smiles; and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves – as was the audience.
Q2IV performed primarily the songs of Rick Knight in a show that has been in preparation for more than a year. That this kind of undertaking can look effortless on stage is a measure of their success. Music direction and piano accompaniment were provided by David Shenton; Mark Allen Wade played bass and Brian Woodruff added percussion. The combo provided solid support for the vocals.
The Q2IV sound has been likened to Manhattan Transfer – with good reason. They can make beautiful music together – and it is not so common as one might hope these days to hear live, mixed voice harmonies (unless you are a maven of acapella – which thrives only on college campuses).
Knight’s songs are engaging and, while less than Porter, they are more than pop. They carry a slight fragrance of Burt Bacharach, and a whiff of Schubert Alley. The harmonies were sometimes reminiscent of once treasured groups of the forties but with a more modern edge and a practiced scintillation. The lyrics were occasionally yearning, and as often funny; there is an underlying romantic sensibility to them.
Of particular note (to me) this evening was a rendition of Knight’s That’s the Man for Me sung by a beguiling Erika Banks (calling to mind an unlikely blend of Doris and “Lady” Day); a very funny Menage a Trois sung by Knight himself – denying that it was based on personal experience (“but I’m not dead yet”); a lovely performance of John Bucchino’s It Feels Like Home sung by Liz McKendry (who navigated the many flats without apparent strain and mellifluous, round tones) and another Bucchino song, What You Need, sung by Jody Mullen – showing off a sensual breathiness and a slight tendency to melodrama – which the audience ate up. Each performer brought individual personality appropriately to bear, but never so much as to disrupt the musical blend when singing together.
As Knight is a singing member of the group, I anticipate that his work will make up a significant part of the Q2IV repertoire, at least until Q2IV gains a following; I would not expect to hear many selections from the American Songbook. Nonetheless the group is well worth a listen by cabaret fans for their energy, the novel material, the rarity of close harmony singing and the good feelings with which they leave you. If you see Q2IV on the marquee, you might well think about sharing an evening with them; it is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Photos by Fred Cohen Photography.
1. Erika Banks, Elizabeth McKendry, Jody Mullen, and Rick Knight
2. Clockwise from top left: Jody Mullen, Erika Banks, Rick Knight, and Elizabeth McKendry
3. Rick equipping himself for “Menage a Trois”